Under their regime's rule, one need only to look at the Hama massacre of 1982 to realize the sheer amount of suffering that the innocent people of Syria have had to endure.
The year was 1982. Hafez Assad, the then dictator of Syria, had banned all other political parties except the Ba'ath (his own). He had them ruthlessly dissolved, their leaders often killed. The free press of Syria had also been outlawed.
The only newspapers that were allowed into circulation were official Ba'ath papers. Needless to say, the people of Syria eventually grew furious with these turn of events. A new political party was formed ... the Muslim Brotherhood.
Not fearing the dictates of Assad, the Muslim Brotherhood had one major goal: to overthrow the dictator of Syria. They made their presence known and soon enough, people started listening to them.
Seeing the new wave of extreme anti-government sentiment as a threat to himself, Hafez Assad deployed his army with one goal ... to make such an example of the Muslim Brotherhood that no man would ever dare challenge his rule again.
The residents of a Syrian city named Hama had been more persistent in their criticisms of the dictator than other towns. For that reason,
Hafez Assad decided that Hama would be the staging point of the example he was to make to the Syrian people. In the twilight hours of February the 2nd, 1982, the city of Hama was awakened by loud explosions. The Syrian air force had began to drop their bombs from the dark sky.
The initial bombing run cost the city few casualties. It's main purpose had been to disable the roads so that no-one could escape. Earlier in the night, Syrian tanks and artillery systems had surrounded Hama. With the conclusion of the air bombing run, the tanks and artillery began their relentless shelling of the town.
The cost in human lives was severe. As homes crumbled upon their living occupants and the smell of charred skin filled the streets, a few residents managed to escape the shelling and started to flee. They were met by the Syrian army which had surrounded the city ... they were all shot dead.
Hours of shelling had turned Hama into rubble. The tanks and artillery had done all that they could. The next wave of attacks came in the form of Syrian soldiers. They quickly converged onto the town killing anything that would move. Groups of soldiers would round up men, women, and children only to shoot them in the back of the head. Many other soldiers would invade homes with the orders to kill all inhabitants.
After the majority of the people in Hama were dead, the soldiers began looting. They would take all that they could from the now empty homes. Some were seen picking through the dead civilians looking for money, watches, and rings.
With their mission completed and their pockets filled with loot, the soldiers began to retreat from the city. One would think that would have been the last wave of the attacks. It was not. The final attack on Hama was the most gruesome. To make sure that no person was left alive in the rubble and buildings, the Syrian army brought in poison gas generators. Cyanide gas filled the air of Hama. Bulldozers were later used to turn the city into a giant flat area.
The Syrian government death count was place at around 20,000 people dead ... but the Syrian Human Rights Committee estimates it to be much higher, at somewhere between 30,000 to 40,000 civilians dead or missing.
Amnesty International reported:
"Some monitors stated: old streets of the city were bombed from the air to facilitate the introduction of military forces and tanks through the narrow streets, like the al-Hader street, where homes were crushed by tanks during the first four days of fighting.
On February 15th, after days of intense bombardment, Defense Minister General Mustafa Tlass announced that the rebellion was put out, but the city remained under siege and surrounded. Door-to-door searches along with extensive arrests continued during the next two following weeks, while various news leaks talked about atrocities committed by the security forces and
mass killings of innocent city residents. It is not easy to know what did exactly occur, but Amnesty International mentioned news of a mass execution of some 70 people outside the city hospital on February 19th and the annihilation of all residents of
the al-Hader area on the hands of the Defense Brigades (Saraya el-Defaa) on the same day. Other reports talk of using containers of cyanide gas to kill all inhabitants of buildings, where rebels were suspected of residing. Also, people were grouped in the military airport, city stadium, and military camps and were left there without shelter or food for days."
The following are some very telling excerpts from the Syrian Human Rights Committee report on the Hama massacre:
"It is rather impossible for a writer to paint a picture of the massacres committed against women and newborn children or to describe the methods used to murder members of the same family, one after another right before the eyes of the ones to follow the same fate.
They would cut the guts of a baby while his mother held him, and then fire a stream of bullets onto her to prevent her from giving birth to another future opposition member. They would fire right on the head of an elder, while he murmured a prayer after what he had just witnessed.
Children would scream asking for their mom, or grandfather just to be answered with a stream of bullets killing them all. A family would fall in a pool of their blood, but not for long, because soldiers would set everything ablaze after ransacking the house for any valuables and cutting the hands and ears off in their crazed rush to loot the jewelry worn.
Not one store escaped theft, ransacking or bulldozing, no mosques escaped destruction, nor any minarets remained erect in Hama during that tragic month, even churches were not spared and suffered a similar fate."
"The regime violated the most basic rights of its people, starting with the right to live and ending with the citizenship rights, motivated only by its utter hatred towards Hama and its citizens because they opposed the regime most when compared to other Syrian cities." "The Syrian regime deals with its citizens by utilizing state terrorism, because it has given up on its duty as a preserver of lives of its citizens and a protector of their properties, honor and dignity."